Santa Claus Around the World

By Laura Jemetta

For Day 10 of Xen’s 12 Days of Christmas I thought it would be fun to take a look at what Santa Claus looks like in different countries around the world. Check out this post where I got my information about Santa from.

France: Pere Noel

In France, Pere Noel – which translates to Father Christmas – wears a long red cloak and fills children’s shoes with gifts after Christmas Eve mass. Traditionally, he also travels with Pere Fouettard – which translates to the ‘whipping father”.

Spain: Los Reyes Magos

In Spain, children are actually visited by three jolly figures on El Dia De Reyes – which is the day that the three wise men reached the baby Jesus. In the days leading up to El Dia De Reyes, the children in Spain write letters to their favourite Magos, asking for gifts. Then, they leave sweets out for the Magi, and hay for the camels they ride on, and the next morning, the shoes that they leave out are replaced by presents.

Russia and Ukraine: Ded Moroz and Snegurochka (Father Frost and Snow Maiden)

Traditionally, Father Frost would punish misbehaving children by kidnapping them, but this story has softened over the years so that he travels all over the Slavic Region on New Years Eve, bringing gifts to kids with his happy companion the Snow Maiden.

Iceland: Yule Lads

The Yule Lads are 13 mischievous elves who play tricks on Icelandic children. During the 13 nights leading up to Christmas, children leave their shoes by the windowsill, in the hopes that the Yule Lads will leave them goodies. Children who misbehave receive rotten potatoes in their shoes instead!

Finland: Joulupukki or Yule Goat

Nicknamed the Finnish Santa, the Yule Goat was initially a malevolent spirit associated with Norse Mythology. Nowadays, Joulupukki goes around the each house and asks ‘are there any well behaved children here?’ He travels around in a non-flying sleigh pulled by reindeer and delivers gifts.

Italy: La Befana

La Befana has been part of Italian folklore since the 8th Century, and she is a cheerful witch who flies over Italy on her broomstick. According to the folklore, the three wise men actually came across La Befana’s house on Christmas Eve, and after she invited them in, they invited her to go and see the baby Jesus with them. Nowadays, the story goes that she flies over Italy on the Eve of the Epiphany, and leaves toys and candy for the children.

There you have it – a few Santa Claus traditions from around the world. Please tell me in the comments the folklore or traditions in your country! I’d love to hear!

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